Interview with Award-Winning Author Steve Nedelton

Steve NedeltonGet to know Steve…

Steven Nedelton is an accredited author writing super suspenseful hits loaded with intrigue. Included in his works are: “Crossroads,” “The Raven Affair,” “Fear!” and the new thriller novel, “Tunnel / The Lost Diary.” During the late fifties, he lived in Paris and London for three years. His familiarity with French customs and people are reflected in the “Crossroads” thriller (originally “Secrets of the house on Liberty Street”). For more info, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

What initially drew you to writing?

I started reading when I was ten, I believe. I received these birthday gifts, including Tom Sawyer, then a year later, The Three Musketeers, and so on. At first, it was hard for me to concentrate, in fact, I hated reading. But then, gradually, I began to love good novels. They were fun. Zane Grey became one of my favorite writers. I still remember how I got the lunch money from my grandmother and spent it on books about cowboys and Indians. And that’s how my interest in writing started too. I had a couple of friends who were real avid readers by thirteen, and so we started inventing stories and writing them, then reading our creations to our group and correcting each other.

Where do you get your ideas?

My ideas for books come mostly from the Online news. And from some research. For example, I found an interesting sentence about the supernatural in a ten-year-old newspaper, and that gave me the inspiration for Crossroads. Other times, the process is quite spontaneous, though that’s pretty rare. Also, such self-generated ideas are rarely good for a full novel but they can be quite useful in writing parts of a book. The beginning of my new novel I am presently writing, Tunnel, was based on a spontaneous thought.

Who is your favorite author?

I like Harlan Coben because I like thrillers, and I liked Grisham in some of his early novels too. I cannot say that I have a favorite author, it’s more like, I have great appreciation for any author of a well-written book.

Are your characters completely fictional? Or do you base them off real people?

My characters are only partly fictional. I always use someone I knew in the past to describe my hero or heroine. The physical description might not be exact but their way of thinking, or general behavior, might be close to what I remember. I can say that a totally factious personality is very difficult to use in a book. Very few writers can come up with a completely new character and make it believable to readers.

What advice would you give young writers?

I would say that anyone interested in becoming proficient in writing needs to read a lot. A variety of books. I believe the style and a vocabulary come from reading.

Tell us about the book you’re working on.

I am presently writing a suspense novel, another thriller. A book called Tunnel. It starts with a ten-year-old boy going into an abandoned coal mine entry/tunnel to find guns soldiers stole and hid inside the storage enclosures used for mine equipment. He gets caught by an AWOL officer who looted a nearby city bank and hid the coffers with gold in there. That’s how the story starts and then turns into a thriller. The first part of the book, the description of the entry into the tunnel leading into the abandoned coal mine, was truly quite spontaneous. All the rest of the events came to me by speculating on what would be interesting to readers of crime novels. So far, I have twenty five thousand words, so, I am still able to experiment with the content.

What is the most valuable advice you’ve ever received?

I think the most valuable advice was to have my books professionally edited before submitting them to a publisher. No matter how interesting the content might be, grammar and punctuation must be correct otherwise the submittal looks unprofessional.

What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?

Each book I wrote in the past five years was tough to write. It took a lot of time and new thinking. Ideas were the most difficult part, I guess. I believe that comes from trying to find the best ones and then fitting them into the general story.

When are you the most productive?

I believe I am the most productive late in the evening. Everything is quiet, naturally, and I am able to concentrate on my story. Mornings are sometimes good too.

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Interview with Award-Winning Author Kathryn Erskine

Author InterviewGet to know Kathryn…

Kathryn Erskine, a lawyer-turned-author, grew up in six countries, an experience that helps her view life, and her writing, from different perspectives. Her novels include MOCKINGBIRD (Philomel 2010), 2010 National Book Award Winner, QUAKING (Philomel 2007), an ALA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, and THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF MIKE (Philomel, 2011), 2012 ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults nominee.  While covering weighty topics, her books have warmth and humor, making difficult issues approachable. She is a writing instructor and frequent workshop presenter. For more info, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received? 

Don’t give up, keep working at your craft.  Also, don’t write to get published, write what your heart feels. 

What element would you add to your writing space if money wasn’t an issue? 

A screen porch—for watching those sunrises and drinking coffee while I write. 

In grade school, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

An explorer, probably because we moved around a lot and because of the books I read, and I love learning new things.  Actually, as a writer, you get to explore all kinds of lives, countries, subjects and use that information in stories.  Exploring from home! 

Earliest childhood memory? 

Standing in my crib, looking through the rippled glass of my bedroom door and hearing the voices of my parents’ party.  Also screaming, because I wanted to join the party, but the hubbub was so loud no one heard me.  Or perhaps they were ignoring me. The most annoying part was that I could see the shadow of my sister, a few years older than me, going past my door periodically so I knew she was up and got to go to the party.  I think that’s when I screamed the loudest. 

Would you rather publish a string of mainstream books or one classic? 

One classic.  But I wouldn’t mind publishing a bunch of mainstream books, either!  

Do you write with music? 

No, but I’m inspired by music and listen to certain songs when I’m not actually writing.  In fact, I create playlists for my books and works in progress, which you can listen to on my website.  

If you could only write one more book, what would it be about? 

The loss of deep and critical thinking which, I think, is caused by a lot of factors, including sensationalized “news” programs, reliance on multiple choice standardized tests, and the instant gratification/multimedia effect of internet, cell phones, etc. (not that I don’t love the internet and related tools, because I do, and use it all heavily, but I do think there’s an element of shallowness and superficiality that results from some types of use). 

Is there a genre you avoid? 

Fantasy … although, you never know, some day…. 

Most embarrassing moment? 

Oh, but there are so many!  One of my favorites is walking down the street as a lawyer in DC and losing my slip because the waistband snapped.  I only noticed when I had difficulty taking another step because the slip was wound around my ankles.  I simple stepped out of it, wadded it up, and threw it in the next trash bin.  Some people noticed but, I think because I acted like it was an everyday occurrence, they just walked on, too. 

What’s the first item on your bucket list? 

Go back to South Africa, including going on safari. 

What do you do to recharge your creative batteries? 

Walk, meditate, get a massage, take a “vacation” (even if that just means going out with friends). 

Do you let anyone read your work-in-progress? Or do you keep it a secret? 

I love getting feedback on my work because it’s so easy to miss something, especially if you’ve written the same scene multiple times.  Beckie Weinheimer, author of CONVERTING KATE, friend, and my co-teacher at the Writer’s Center, just read the first chapter of my current manuscript and pointed out several things I needed to add — so helpful! 

What’s one rule you’re dying to break?

My homeowners’ association by-laws:  I would raise chickens and paint something fun on my mailbox! 

Do you begin with character or plot? 

I always start with a character, a voice that starts talking in my head.  I listen, write it down, and go from there. 

What do you consider to the most valuable thing you own? 

Integrity. 

Describe your perfect day. 

Waking early to a cool morning and hot coffee, watching the sunrise, taking the dog for a walk, writing all day, then dinner and laughter with family and friends. 

Are your characters completely fictional? Or do you base them off real people? 

They’re fictional but sometimes they have characteristics of people I know or have seen, and sometimes they’re inspired by real people. 

What was the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten? 

Probably crickets. 

Tell us about the book you’re working on. 

It’s called (at least at this point) FACING FREEDOM and is about a boy in rural Virginia who solves a mystery and discovers some secrets of the past, including something about his own family. 

Interview

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Interview with New York Times Bestselling Author Diane Duane

Untitled-2Get to know Diane…

Diane Duane has been a writer of science fiction, fantasy, TV and film for more than thirty years. Besides the 1980′s creation of the Young Wizards fantasy series for which she’s best known, the “Middle Kingdoms” epic fantasy series, and numerous stand-alone fantasy or science fiction novels, her career has included extensive work in the Star Trek TM universe, and many scripts for live-action and animated TV series on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as work in comics and computer games. She has spent a considerable amount of time on the New York Times Bestseller List and has picked up various awards and award nominations here and there. For more info, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

What initially drew you to writing?

I think the realization, when I was very young, that nobody seemed to be writing exactly what I wanted to read. I wrote my first novel when I was about eight –I say “novel” advisedly: I thought of it as a book, though it was only about thirty pages long. (Don’t ask me what it was about… that I don’t remember.) But I illustrated it myself, and drew a cover for it, because I thought that was what you had to do if you wanted to write books. It makes me laugh a little, because now that I’m bringing out some of my own books in new editions, I’m doing the same thing… just with better tools.

What was your favorite book to write?

That’s a hard question to answer – it’s kind of like asking a parent which of their children is the favorite. In terms of work in other peoples’ universes, I think my favorite was probably SPOCK’S WORLD: I love Star Trek very much, and getting a chance to write a whole book about Vulcan (and Vulcans) was a lot of fun. In terms of my own original worlds, again it’s hard to choose – but I had a whole lot of fun just now with A WIZARD OF MARS, which was the ninth of the Young Wizards books. They seem to be getting more fun as I go along.

Who is your favorite author?

I have a lot of authors I read again and again – greats like Kipling and Twain and Dickens, and contemporaries like Tanith Lee, C. J. Cherryh: also Robert Heinlein, C. S. Lewis, Fletcher Pratt… so many others. But for sheer escapism, I always seem to turn to E. R. Eddison – especially the Zimiamvian Trilogy and THE WORM OUROBOROS. Eddison is one of those writers who deserves to be much better known. When Tolkien was just getting his first book published, Eddison was the hottest new name in fantasy, and Tolkien’s publisher asked him to write a blurb for THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING. Someone like that is worth reading…

Where do you get your ideas?

A lot of them come from the news. In fact it’s kind of hard for me to go through a normal day without getting an idea for a novel or a short story or something similar. The problem is that it’s easy to have ideas: they’re a dime a dozen. Working out what to do with them, and then doing it well enough to be worth showing to other people – that’s what’s really hard.

Tell us about the book you’re working on.

I’ve just barely finished pulling together an anthology of some of my fantasy short stories, called UPTOWN LOCAL AND OTHER INTERVENTIONS, and now I’m busy with the tenth Young Wizards novel, which is called GAMES WIZARDS PLAY. (At least that’s the working title: if I find a better one while I’m working, I don’t mind changing it.) It has to do with a periodic meeting of the most talented young wizards on the planet as they compete to create spells powerful enough to change the world. But there’s a lot more than that going on around the edges.

The participants find themselves caught up into a completely different level of competition, first among themselves, and then against other powers that become involved in what’s called “the Invitational”. And as a result, some of the personal business that’s been set up in the last few books among the main characters starts to develop in some very unusual directions… I hope you’ll forgive me for being sort of vague about this, but the subject is strewn with possible spoilers and I want to avoid making the Young Wizards fandom crazy….

What advice would you give young writers?

To become a better writer, you need to read widely. Read not only things you like, but things you think you won’t be interested in. And especially, read outside of your main period of interest. Every literary time period has its own fads, mannerisms and blind spots: it also has kinds of writing it does better than any other time period. Learn from the mistakes (and virtues) of older writers and you can add the virtues to your own skill set while avoiding the errors.

As you start to improve your grasp of what constitutes good writing… write. Write every day. One of my mentors told me, “The first million words are for practice.” I would add a corollary to that: I don’t think it’s possible to write a million words – assuming you’re also seeking out good writers to read and learn from — without becoming at least a pretty fair writer. So get started.

What is the most valuable advice you’ve ever received?

A very senior writer once told me never to be satisfied with what I wrote yesterday – to always, while rereading and revising, look for ways to do it better the next time. Swing out further, be bolder thematically, try harder to craft the perfect sentence or paragraph, challenge your characters in ways you didn’t think to challenge them yesterday, deal with subjects that scare you or that feel like they’ll be difficult to handle. Don’t be afraid to fail at this. If you do fail, don’t be frustrated: try again, and next time, fail better. The only writer who’s failed is the one who’s stopped trying to surpass himself or herself.

When are you the most productive? 

Afternoons, usually. Mornings around our place tend to get taken up with household stuff, for me at least. By early afternoon I can settle in and get serious work done. Normally I write for five or six hours at a clip before needing to knock off and get something to eat.

Are your characters completely fictional? 

Characters I like are sometimes partially based on real people. In fact it would be safe to say that the only real people who make it into my books are friends of mine. People I don’t like in the real world never make it into my books, either as good guys or bad guys. Generally speaking, though, most of my characters are composites of many people that I’m acquainted with or just know about.

Dream vacation?

Two possible answers to this: a vacation that might happen in the medium-term future, and one that I’d really like to have but don’t know if I can find time or opportunity. In the first case: there’s a beautiful, isolated spa town in the Swiss Alps called Leukerbad. I’d love to go up there for about ten days and do nothing but soak in hot water and develop new story ideas. (The banner image in the left-hand column at DianeDuane.com was taken up there.) In the second case – I’d like to rent an RV and drive around central Europe for a few months with my husband, shopping in local food markets, cooking and eating the local foods, and blogging about it…. And then write a cookbook about it afterwards.

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Interview with Award-Winning Author Donna Jo Napoli

DonnaGet to know Donna…

Donna Jo Napoli is professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College, mother of five, grandmother of two, and author of more than seventy books for pre-K through high school. Her work ranges from gothic horror to contemporary humor, and she loves to swim in traditional tales — religious, folk, fairy, mythological.

She has three works coming out in summer 2011: LIGHTS ON THE NILE, a novel set in 2530 BC in Egypt; THE CROSSING, a picture book about the Lewis and Clark expedition from the point of view of the baby on Sacagawea’s back; TREASURY OF GREEK MYTHOLOGY, a set of tales about gods, goddesses, and heroes, woven together in what she hopes is a coherent whole. For more info, visit her website.

Daily word count?

You know, I’m OCD (or anal or whatever other label people are using now) in lots of ways, but counting words isn’t one of them. I have no idea of an average, even. Some days I don’t get a chance to sit down and write and other days I get to write all day long. If I write a whole chapter in a day that’s a huge day.

Outliner or seat-of-the-pantser?

No outlines, that’s for sure. Once an editor and I were wrangling over a draft (maybe it was the 4th or 5th draft) and she asked me to outline it at that point. I tried. I swear I tried. But after working at it a while, I found it so very deadening that I threw up my hands in despair. Some people have the skill of outlining. I’m not one.

But I do a lot of research before I write even a single word. So it’s not really seat-of-the-pants, either. I start with the first sentence and keep going — but I know my character and I know my character’s world (time and place) — so that’s a foundation.

If money were no issue, what element would you add to your writing space?

Water. I love the sea. I’d love to be able to write in a room with a view of the sea.

How long does it take to write a book?

It varies a lot. but probably an average is around 2 and a half years. But I’m not working on only one book in that period. When I finish a draft of a book, I need to get away from it — find some distance. And I find that by working on a draft of a different book. Within a year’s period I’ll often have worked on three stories, sometimes four.

In grade school, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

Alive. Because that seemed like a good thing. And it did not seem something to take for granted in the world I lived in. A mother. Because that’s what all the women I saw were — except the teachers — and everyone felt sorry for the teachers.

Easier to write before or after you were published?

No difference here. Writing is never easy for me. It’s natural — but like a compulsion — always (slightly if not greatly) uneasy.

Earliest childhood memory?

Sitting on the floor listening to my brother play the piano. He was brilliant. All my siblings were brilliant. The world seemed packed with brilliant people who simply knew how to do things.

Would you rather publish a string of mainstream books or one classic?

This is such a strange question to me. It is geared toward how books are received. I don’t write based on how things are received. I write because I have to, because I’d die if I didn’t. I write as often as I can. I don’t care whether I spent the rest of my life writing one book or dozens of books, so long as I always have something to write.

As for mainstream: I don’t care about getting rich (I have a salary — from my teaching linguistics job — and in my view of the world, a salary makes me automatically “rich”). As for classic: I don’t care about being remembered (I’ll be dead, then, so what’s with that?).

If you could only write one more book, what would it be about?

Maybe the book that’s in my head that I’m afraid to write because I think it will wash me away, out to sea. It’s set in 1945. That’s all I can say about it. And now that I have admitted this, I guess I have no choice but to start it. Good grief, what have you done to me, woman?

Do you begin with character or plot?

Character. Unless I’m doing a fairy tale — then the plot is handed to me at the outset.

Tell us about the book you’re working on.

It’s under a pseudonym, so if I tell, I’ll blow my cover. This is new for me. But I have some stories to tell that I wouldn’t want anyone with past expectations about my writing to wander into. And I wouldn’t want children to wander into them unprepared.

Describe your perfect day.

Get up early, with the birds. Write until my husband wakes up. Have breakfast together. Play. Go back to writing. Have lunch together. Play. Go back to writing. Make dinner together. Take a long walk together. Read. Go to bed.

Play = play with grandchildren (if it’s the luckiest of the perfect days — my grandchildren live far away), garden, do the laundry, wash the bathrooms and stairs, bake bread, chop vegetables, prepare classes, grade papers, do email, all those nice little tasks of daily life.

What was the best thing that happened to you this weekend?

I was at the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference in Homer, Alaska. I saw a mother moose and her calf. I love animals. And seeing a wild moose up close with this spindly-legged calf behind her was just the best.

Who inspires you and how are you a bit like them?

Just being alive inspires me. I don’t think I’m like any of the authors I love.

Where do you get your ideas?

Just by living.

What advice would you give young writers?

Write all the time. Every sort of thing. Take something complex that you know how to do (making an origami frog, building a birdhouse, whatever) and write directions for doing it. Then have someone who has never done it try to do it following your directions. You’ll see what you left out, how you worded something in a confusing or vague way. It’s a great exercise for learning to write precisely what you mean.

What was the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten?

Tripe (but it’s weird only from an American perspective — I hate it, by the way).

What do you consider to the most valuable thing you own?

A ring that was my mother-in-law’s.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Write what only you can write.

What one word describes you? 

Frenetic. But it’s just that I’m a high energy person, so others think I’m frenetic.

What would you like your life to look like in ten years?

Much like today — only I hope I get to see my grandchildren more often.

Most embarrassing moment?

There have been so many. I’m always doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.

What’s the first item on your bucket list?

Is this the list of “to-do-before-I-die”? I don’t think I have such a list.

What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

They never run out. Sometimes I get tired. Writing usually brings back my energy.

What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?

THE MAGIC CIRCLE just flowed out of me. NORTH — I had a very naturalistic first half of the book, then a very fantastical second half — and I couldn’t make them hold hands. Finally, I gave up and just made the whole book realistic.

Do you let anyone read your work-in-progress? 

I inflict my first drafts on my family.
I read my second drafts to school children.
I have no secrets.

What is your secret talent?

Like I said, I have no secrets.

What’s one rule you’re dying to break?

One of my biggest problems is that I’m unaware — so I rarely know there’s a rule out there — and so I wind up breaking them all the time. But I’m not happy about doing it. I don’t try to. It just happens.

If this was your last day on Earth, what would you do?

Gather my family and cook and eat together.

What initially drew you to writing?

A personal tragedy.

If you could spend a vacation with three authors, who would they be?

Jerry and Eileen Spinelli for two — since they are our best friends. And Rita Dove for a third, since I just met her in Alaska and I find her wonderful.

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Interview with Award-Winning Author Kathleen Benner Duble

DubleGet to know Kathleen…

Kathleen Benner Duble grew up surrounded by very talented individuals. Her first book, Bridging Beyond, a young adult novel, about her grandmother, came out in May of 2002 and was an IRA Notable Honor Book. Pilot Mom, about her sister, came out in May of 2003 from Charlesbridge Publishing. Her third book, The Sacrifice, a story about an ancestor discovered by her father, was released in October of 2005 by Margaret K. McElderry. This middle grade novel was a Junior Library Guild Selection, received a starred review from Booklist, was a 2005/2006 Book Sense Pick, a Jefferson Cup Noteworthy book, and an ALA BBYA nominee and was on nine state reading award lists. For more info, visit her website

Let the conversation begin!

What initially drew you to writing?

In the third grade, I wrote this terrible story. But my teacher liked it and told me that I should consider being a writer. That was all I needed to hear. From then on, that was what I wanted to do.

What was your favorite book to write?

I loved writing THE SACRIFICE. Mainly because it was about my great(x9) grandmother but even more so because it was so fun to imagine what it would have felt like to be accused of witchcraft at the age of ten.

Who is your favorite author?

Natalie Babbit is my favorite children’s author. (I love that image in Tuck Everlasting of the Ferris wheel hanging mid-air and the way she compares that to a hot August day.) My favorite adult author is Wallace Stegner and the book Crossing to Safety.

Where do you get your ideas?

All my ideas come from my family. I steal from them all the time. No one in my family is safe. So far I have stolen stories from my great-grandmother, my sister, my grandmother, my husband, my dad and my daughters.

Tell us what you’re working on.

I have just finished a book about Madame Tussaud. Not many people know but she was accused of being a royalist during the French Revolution and was slated to go to the guillotine. To save herself, she agreed to make wax models of the royalty they beheaded. Very freaky!

What advice would you give young writers?

The most important thing young writers need to do is read! Read all the time. And remind your parents if they complain about you not doing your chores but reading instead that you are working!

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Look for the good. My grandmother told me that. And it applies to life as well as writing. You can always see the mistakes you’ve made in your work, but can you see how you’ve improved?

When are you the most productive?

I am a morning gal for writing, but an evening gal for socializing.

Are your characters completely fictional? 

Real people enter into everyone’s fictionalized characters. You can’t help it and most of the time, you don’t even know you are doing it. There is a little piece of everyone I know in everyone I create.

What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?

Easiest: The Story of the Samson. I wrote that book in a day, although I did research for a lot longer than that. Hardest: Quest. Telling a story from four people’s points of view is both challenging and rewarding.

Dream vacation?

My dream vacation is to go someplace I’ve never been before, someplace exotic like India or Bhutan. But what really makes it a dream vacation is that both my girls and my husband would be there, too. So even if I never make it to an exotic country, I can always have a dream vacation if my family is with me.

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Author Interview with Giles Paley Phillips

GilesGet to know Giles…

Giles was born in East Sussex and lives in Seaford. He is a very interesting character. Initially, he pursued a career in music, releasing several albums, and playing at such prestigious events as The Glastonbury and Essential festivals. That’s when he first began to develop his skills as a writer. Giles’s first book, There’s a Lion in My Bathroom, received much critical acclaim and was made “Book of the month” by The Truth About Books. His work has been likened to that of Spike Milligan. For more info, visit his website.

Let the conversation begin!

What’s one rule you’re dying to break?

I don’t want to break any rules. I’m a good boy.

Where do you get your ideas?

It can spring from anywhere, really. The Fearsome Beastie was initially inspired by my son’s desire to play games where we hide under blankets from scary monsters. It made me think that children actually enjoy that sort of play.

Easier to write before or after you were published?

Being published has opened my eyes to different ways of writing, (what will work and what won’t), which allows me to be much more focused on writing things I hope my readers will like.

Are your characters completely fictional? Or do you base them off real people?

The grandmother in The Fearsome Beastie is based on bits of both my grandmothers. Having had parents that both died young, my grandparents were very instrumental in my upbringing and made me who I am today. 

What advice would you give young writers?

Be tenacious, keep writing, keep sending stuff. You never know when you might get a bite.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Stay true to what you’re doing. If you’re passionate about your work, then keep going.

What one word describes you? 

Fervent. I like to think I’m sincere about how I conduct myself and my work.

What would you like your life to look like in ten years?

I’ve been pretty lucky already in my life. I have a fantastic family and many great friends, so in many ways I’d like life to look very much like it does now! Although, if I can sell a whole bunch of books, I wouldn’t mind a home with a private cinema and bowling alley. Come on, is that too much to ask?

Daily word count?

Some days none, other days loads. I don’t have a writing routine, so I just write when I get the opportunity.

Outliner or seat-of-the-pants writer?

Seat of the pants, for sure. I just let it come out, then try and work it all out later.

When are you the most productive?

After any meal. My brain always needs food.

If money wasn’t an issue, what element would you add to your writing space?

A Mac desktop. My PC is so slow.

What’s the first item on your bucket list?

Taking my wife and kids to New York.

What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

Kicking back and watching a movie.

Do you let anyone read your work-in-progress?

My wife and two sons are extremely helpful when it comes to telling me what is and isn’t working.

Would you rather publish a string of mainstream books or one classic?

Definitely one classic.

If you could only write one more book, what would it be about?

A boy who wants to become a dancer, but was born with two left feet, so he can only walk in circles! His mother is really upset when he’s born because she became obsessed with buying baby booties, but only half of them work! You see? I’ve worked it all out.

Is there a genre you avoid?

YA Fiction, too many Vampires.

What initially drew you to writing?

I’ve been playing in bands for years, writing music and lyrics. I then wrote a book of adult poetry, which I sold privately. Then, soon after my first son was born, I stumbled on a book by Shel Silverstein, which just totally blew me away. I wrote my first children’s manuscript that day.

Do you begin with character or plot?

Always plot for me.

Describe your dream vacation.

My wife and I honeymooned in Bath. We keep saying we’ll go back sometime. It’s a beautiful city.

Giles Paley-Phillips

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Interview with Bestselling Author Nancy Rue

Nancy Rue

Get to know Nancy…

Nancy Rue is the author of 110 books, including 9 novels for adults, 17 for teens, and 60 for tween readers, as well as 2 parenting books, 32 non-fiction books for tweens and teens, and the features for the FaithGirlz Bible. Her Lily Series, published by Zondervan, has sold well over one million copies. Her ability to relate to a wide audience has made her a popular radio and television guest and an in-demand speaker and teacher for writer’s conferences across the country. She has been a regular keynoter for The Young Writer’s Institute and Virtuous Reality Ministries, and now anchors Zondervan’s Beauty of Believing Tour for FaithGirlz, which draws thousands of tween girls and their moms.

Nancy is also the founder of the “Writing for Children and Youth Conference” in Glen Eyrie, Colorado. Her latest titles include The Reluctant Prophet for adult readers (David C. Cook) Limos, Lattes, and My Life On the Fringe (Zondervan) for teens, and That Is SO Me (Zondervan), a year-long devotional for tweens – in addition to a book written with her husband entitled What Happened To My Little Girl: A Dad’s Guide to His Tween Daughter. A student of the Academy for Spiritual Formation, sponsored by the Upper Room, Nancy continues her own spiritual journey even as she writes and speaks for mothers, daughters, and would-be writers about theirs. For more info, visit her website

Let the conversation begin!

Are you an outliner or a seat of the pants writer?

Definitely an outliner. I would have a nervous breakdown if I tried to write a book without knowing where I wanted to go and how I intended to get there! That’s not to say that I don’t get new ideas and change things as I go along, but having that framework keeps me sane!

What do you do to recharge your batteries?

I usually go on a spiritual retreat. Right now I’m in a program called the Academy For Spiritual Formation, which involves going to San Antonio, Texas, four times a year for two years for five days at a time for intense study and contemplation and worship and community. I come back teeming with new ideas every time.

What would you like life to look like in ten years?

I would love to still be writing and publishing, but I’d like for the pace to be slower. I’d love to have a writers’ retreat house on my property so that writers who want intense mentoring can come to me and have a place to practice their craft in a quiet atmosphere. It would be great to be looking back on the campaign for more children’s and youth literature in the CBA that I’m starting now, and smiling because it has been so successful. Most of all, I want to feel God saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done.”

Is there a genre you avoid?

In terms of CBA genres, I stay away from science fiction, mostly because (a) I’ve never really read any and (b) my mind just doesn’t work that way. I may be the only person in America who’s never seen The Matrix! Never say never, of course, but I just don’t think I’d be very good at it.

What initially drew you to writing?

At the time, I thought it was Nancy Drew. Seriously—when I was 10 I read every Nancy Drew mystery I could get my hands on, most of them several times. One day I stopped wanting to BE Nancy Drew and started wanting to write books about somebody like her. When I actually started writing seriously, when I was 28, it wasn’t Nancy Drew who drew me to it (no pun intended!) but God. The call was clear and has continued to be, even when the ins and outs of publishing have been a mystery to me (and I needed Nancy Drew to solve it!)

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Interview with Bestselling Author Susane Colasanti

SusanecGet to know Susane…

Susane Colasanti is the author of WHEN IT HAPPENS, TAKE ME THERE and WAITING FOR YOU. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree from New York University. Before becoming a full-time author, Susane was a high school Physics and Earth Science teacher for almost 10 years. She lives in New York City. For more info, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

Do you let anyone read your work-in-progress? Or do you keep it a secret? 

No one reads my manuscripts before I submit them. I get the impression that this is unusual. Lots of authors I know belong to writing groups. Most of the others give their early drafts to several people for feedback. If I tried showing my work around before submitting it, I think I’d be pulled in so many different directions with feedback that I’d be too overwhelmed. Everyone has an opinion about how a manuscript should be improved. But my editors are ultimately the ones who decide what should be changed. I’d rather wait to hear what they have to say and go from there.

Do you write with music?

Dude, it’s so weird. When I wrote my first three books, music had to be playing. There’s no way I could write without it. Things are really different now. I don’t need music to write. In fact, with my past two books I’ve actually preferred to write in silence! Music used to enhance my writing experience, but now it usually distracts me. Not really sure what all that’s about…

If you could only write one more book, what would it be about?

The same thing I’ve been writing about: soul mates. I’m fascinated by soul mates! This topic never gets old. Everyone seems to have different definitions of what a soul mate is, so I’ll clarify. To me, a soul mate is someone who inspires you to be a better version of yourself, someone who supports everything you are and gets you in a way other people don’t. You feel happy when you’re around them. I just love writing about that kind of strong connection and how it changes people’s lives forever.

How many words do you write each day?

When I’m writing a new book, my schedule is to write five pages a day, five days a week. Well, that’s the ideal schedule. Life sometimes gets in the way, as it does for any job. I try to have a first draft written in three months.

Are you an outliner or a seat-of-the-pants writer?

Setting up a chapter outline before I begin writing works pretty well for me. I like to know how the story will begin and end before I start. It’s also good for me to have a few key scenes planned for a sense of direction.

Every scene must move the story forward in some way. Knowing where the story needs to go helps me to not ramble on for hundreds of pages. I can be extremely tangential! That said, the chapter outline does change dramatically as I’m writing the book. New ideas are sparked all the time.

Characters reveal more of themselves to me as the story unfolds. Sometimes they even take control of the story. I’ll be writing some dialogue and all of a sudden a character will take over I’ll be like, “He did not just say that.” Those are fun times.

When are you the most productive? 

I’ve always been a night person. When I was a teacher, I somehow managed to bring the energy mad early. But that was only because I believe every student deserves a quality education, regardless of time of day. What’s cool about being my own boss (other than smack talking my boss – corny alert!) is that I can set my own hours. So I write or revise in the afternoons.

If I’m on deadline, I’ll work a 12- to 16-hour day. But usually I try to do some online work in the morning, go to the gym around noon, and then spend the afternoon working on the book.

What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

Archival scrapbooking is my preferred artistic activity when I have some time off. The old-school part of me loves playing board games with friends. I’m freaking out right now because a mini-golf course just opened on a pier at my park and I seriously cannot wait to play. On a daily basis I have to do some fun reading and walking around New York to recharge. I love the energy here in my neighborhood. It helps me work and relax.

Was it easier to write before or after you were published?

Definitely after. Before I was published, there was a lot of uncertainty. I wasn’t reading much contemporary teen fiction at that time, so I wasn’t sure what publishers were looking for exactly.

Plus I was a teacher. Doing both was exhausting! It was really difficult to find writing time. I mostly wrote on breaks and over the summer. The process was much slower. I resigned from teaching after my first book was published. Now that I’m a full-time author, I can focus on having a new book out every year.

Are your characters completely fictional? Or do you base them off real people?

It varies. Some characters just suddenly burst in, like John from So Much Closer. I don’t know anyone like John in real life. I wish I did – he’s incredible! Some characters are influenced by real people I’ve known. Tobey from When It Happens was inspired by a real boy I knew in high school. Which is awesome. Because when readers ask me if boys like Tobey actually exist, I can say that they totally do.

What advice would you give young writers?

Read. Read a lot. The more you read, the better your writing will become. Write about what makes you feel alive. If you’re passionate about your writing, you will always feel inspired. Listening (what some people call “spying”) is good. Some of the best dialogue in my books was taken right from actual dialogue I overheard. Be in the Now. You’ll notice so many quirky details if you take the time to be present. No devices, no screens – just you and the world around you. You’ll be amazed by what you notice after even one minute of quiet observation.

Tell us about the book you’re working on.

Right now I’m revising my sixth book, which will be out next year. It’s a bit too early to share the title or details, but I should be posting about it by the end of this summer. So please stay tuned!

susane colsanti

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Interview with Award-Winning Author Jessica Lee Anderson

jessicasGet to know Jessica…

Jessica Lee Anderson is the author of TRUDY, BORDER CROSSING, as well as the forthcoming young adult novel, CALLI (2011). She’s published two nonfiction readers, as well as fiction and nonfiction for a variety of magazines including Highlights for Children.. Jessica graduated from Hollins University with a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature, and instructed at the Institute of Children’s Literature for five years. She is a member of The Texas Sweethearts & Scoundrels and hopes to be more sweetheart than scoundrel. She lives near Austin, Texas with her husband and two crazy dogs. For more info, visit her website.

When did you fall in love with writing?

My love affair with writing began when I was a reader. One book in particular sparked the desire for me to become an author—Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. My mom read the book aloud to me when I was little, and I became captivated by the March family, especially Jo and her desire to write. While reading was natural for me, writing wasn’t. I tanked school writing assignments and still struggle with writing aspects to this day. Even though some technical aspects have been a challenge for me over the years, the joy of creating stories has kept the passion for writing alive. For more info, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

Has writing gotten harder or easier?

Writing has gotten easier in some ways and harder in others. My writing toolbox has definitely increased—I’ve read more books, attended more conferences/writing classes, and spent more time networking and gleaning info from the pros. That said, the longer I’ve been at this, the more I’ve had to battle disenchantment and doubt given the ups and downs, daunting statistics, budget cuts, layoffs, etc. My writing group has helped me through these tougher times, though, and I’m fortunate to have such incredible support, encouragement, and helpful opinions.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received regarding writing?

Laurie Halse Anderson spoke to the Austin SCBWI chapter members at BookPeople and shared her writing expertise and how she manages to stay productive. She watches little to no television. Knowing how easy it is to lose track of time, I’ve reduced the amount of television I watch each week and need to apply this same technique to Internet usage so I don’t waste away precious writing time.

What has been your favorite novel to write? 

Writing my first novel, Trudy, helped me deal with slowly losing my grandmother to Alzheimer’s. Out of all of the novels I’ve written, it is the most personal—so many pieces of me and my family are woven through each vignette.

Jessica

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Interview with Bestselling Author Eric Luper

Get to know Eric…

Eric Luper has been writing for teens since 1999 when he decided to stop fighting the youthful voice that was trying to make its way into his “grown up” books. Since then, he has written a bunch of books for young adults, some of which have actually been published, including BIG SLICK, BUG BOY and SETH BAUMGARTNER’S LOVE MANIFESTO. Of Eric’s fourth novel (his first for middle-grade readers), JEREMY BENDER VS. THE CUPCAKE CADETS, Gordon Gorman says, “Hats (and tams) off to Jeremy Bender for a belly laugh not even the densest cupcakes could hold down!” Eric lives in Albany, NY but spends as many weekends as possible in nearby Lake George doing mountainey and lakey things. For more info, visit his website.

Let the conversation begin!

What’s one rule you’re dying to break?

I’ve always wanted to stick my hand out the bus window but I’m still paranoid that my arm is going to be torn off.

Was it easier to write before or after you were published?

I would say they are both difficult for different reasons. Before I was published, I had no deadlines so I could more lax about my writing schedule. I could play around a little more. However, it was more stressful because the question of whether I had the ability to get published in the first place always crept in around the edges. Now that I’ve published a few books, there is a lot more accountability. My editor and agent have expectations. My readers have expectations too!

Are your characters completely fictional? Or do you base them off real people?

Most of my characters are the sum of several people I know. I tend to merge the physical appearance of one with the humor of another with the values of yet another. I mix it up so much, though, that my friends and family very rarely recognize themselves.

What advice would you give young writers?

Most authors tell young writers to read and write as much as they can, so I won’t give that advice. My advice is to not be afraid to make mistakes. That’s what revisions are for. If you’re going off on some tangent and jumping all over the place, just go with it. When you’re done, put it aside for a few weeks. When you go back to it, it’ll be clear what needs to get cut or changed around. Also, never write to please others. Write to please yourself and trust that others will find it interesting.

What would you like your life to look like in ten years?

I’d like to be writing full-time in an apartment in a really cool city somewhere. Someplace I can walk out of and stroll to a nifty downtown. Maybe New Orleans LA or Saratoga Springs NY. Oh, and also I’m the master of both time and space.

How many words do you write each day?

I do not keep myself to a word-count schedule like this. I have too many other things going on in my life including a separate business to run, two small kids and some other side projects, including being involved with several charities. Plus, I tend to write in manic spurts. I’ll go a few weeks where I have no idea what to write and then I’ll have a burst of inspiration and write 4,000 words per day for a few weeks. I know when it’s time sprint and that’s when I sprint.

Are you an outliner or a seat-of-the-pants writer?

Typically, I know how I want the book to end, and when I say ‘how’ I mean the emotional change and growth of my characters. However, I have no idea how I’m going to get there. For me, that’s the fun part. And when I can surprise myself with a little twist or get excited, happy or sad, I know I’m heading down the right track.

What element would you add to your writing space if money wasn’t an issue?

I would like to have a little cabin on a lake somewhere. Just a bedroom, some writing space, a bathroom and a kitchen. Nothing fancy. I’d want no television or internet access. And I’d like time to go there and WRITE!

What’s the first item on your bucket list?

I have a writing bucket list and a regular bucket list. The great thing is that so many of my writing bucket list things have already happened (getting published, having a subsequent book published, certain accolades, going to big book events, writing both young adult and middle grade, etc). On the top of my bucket list right now is to have a fantasy book published. The good news is that I’m working on one now.

My regular bucket list is peppered with places I’d like to travel to and visit. On the top of that list is Iceland!

What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

I have a muse trapped in my basement, so I just go down there and tell her to give me a few ideas. In exchange, I give her some food.

Do you let anyone read your work-in-progress? Or do you keep it a secret?

I have a small group of critiquers who I let read my unfinished things. Sometimes, I’ll hit an impasse and it’s one of my techniques to get past it. The hardest part was finding that group of critiquers I trust!

If there is one genre you’d never write, what is it? 

Technical manuals. Do I really have to say why?

Would you rather publish a string of mainstream books or one classic?

I love the idea of a series. When I was a kid, I loved reading them and I still remember the joy I felt when a new book in the series came out. I’d love to bring that same feeling to young people today. Leave the ‘one classic’ to Harper Lee.

Do you write with music?

I find music distracting, even if there are no lyrics. I find television in the background distracting too. I don’t mind ambient noise though, so I can write at the library or even at a café. I can edit with music, though. Is that weird?

Do you begin with character or plot?

I always start with a situation or a premise, a ‘what would happen?’ sort of question. Then, I figure out a character that would be interesting in that situation and go with it. For me, plot grows from this. Put an interesting character in a stressful of interesting situation and fun things happen. I just try to keep up!

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